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I’m not missing Messi & neither should you

We have plenty of amazing athletes in Israel. We really do. There are many role models whether they play soccer, basketball, judo or handball and it’s time that we begin to appreciate them a little bit more.

Against all odds, Israelis have reached the highest of heights in many different sports and have played and appeared at major tournaments and competitions across the globe. It’s time for us to do some soul searching as to who we look up to and admire.

With Argentina announcing that they won’t come to Israel to play a pre-World Cup friendly in Jerusalem, anger and disappointment have reigned supreme throughout the country. Arguably the biggest star of the past decade, Leo Messi won’t be visiting the Holy Land and that has upset millions.

Reasons for the cancellation have been numerous from the coach not wanting to take the team out or training camp for the World Cup, to Messi and his family being threatened by terrorists to the BDS activists, we’ve heard them all. Where does the truth lie? Probably somewhere in between.

What disturbs me the most is how we worship the ground that Messi walks on. Why are so many children running around with his jersey in Israel and why is he treated by us as a God? From Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Minister of Culture and Sports, it’s as if a criminal offense has taken place. Certainly it’s a disgrace that Argentina decided to break their contract and not come to Israel. But an even bigger disgrace is that Jibril Rajoub the Head of the PA Football Association can freely speak the way he does against Israel. However, at the end of the day we need to look inwards at who we really are and where our values are as a people.

Why not wear an Israel National Team shirt of any sport and support the many Israelis not only playing in the country but outside of it as well. How about looking up to our Olympic athletes from Judo to swimming and track? There are many teams playing both domestically and in Europe from Maccabi Tel Aviv in both soccer and basketball to Hapoel Jerusalem, Maccabi Haifa and even down south to Hapoel Eilat.

We have much to be proud of, but we need to begin the process of educating our youth that the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s are not the be all and end all. Sure it’s fun to watch them and we should appreciate them as well, but at the end of the day we need to support our own athletes.

Bringing Argentina to Israel would have been nice, but at the price that we were going to pay for this privilege we could have put the money into developing our youth sports throughout the country. We need to truly look at what Zionism through Sports really is and Messi coming to play 90 minutes just isn’t it.